International Space Station launches RemoveDebris, first mission to harpoon space junk

James Marshall
June 25, 2018

The RemoveDEBRIS mission, led by the University of Surrey and built by the world's leading small satellite manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), with technology on board designed by Airbus, is one of the world's first attempts to tackle the build-up of unsafe space debris orbiting the Earth.

He continued, "RemoveDEBRIS is signifying some very thrilling active junk removal technologies that can have a vast influence on how we handle space junk moving forward". The RemoveDEBRIS mission During the experiment, the RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft will release a small "target" satellite into space and then will use a net to recapture it.

The ground controllers will spend the next two months switching on all the satellite's subsystems and checking that they work as designed, according to Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey and principal investigator of the European Union-funded, 5.2-million-euro ($18.7 million) mission. It is expected to begin experiments in orbit soon. "We will need three to four weeks for each experiment". This initiative is the best exemplar of how tiny satellite abilities have developed and how the Space Station can function as a stage for assignments of this scale. The debris-catching net experiment, developed at Airbus' site in Bremen, Germany, will be conducted in October, the company said in a statement. It would be shot at the debris and capture it.

Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey and Principal Investigator for the mission, said: "After nearly five years of development, it is exciting to finally be in a position where we can test these extremely exciting technologies in the field". CubeSats will be launched from the primary satellite and "watched" through Light Detection & Ranging system and cameras.

In February 2019, the last of Airbus' three experiments will take place.

The craft will also deploy a large sail that will drag it into the Earth's atmosphere, where it will be destroyed.

"The sail produces a significant amount of drag so that the spacecraft slows down and its orbit decays much faster than it would without the sail", said Aglietti. The deployment of RemoveDebris marks the launch of the largest payload deployed ever from the space station.

Deployed on June 20, 2018, it is named as the RemoveDebris mission.

Ideally, RemoveDEBRIS will be the first of many satellites with nets and harpoons to collect space junk.

Dextre, the Canadian Space Agency's robotic handyman aboard the International Space Station (ISS), can be seen at the right.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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